Friday morning I sat on the porch with a mother who was incredibly frustrated by an adult son who has struggled for years with an addiction to alcohol. With pain in her voice, she shared the fear that her son would face the same fate as her own father and brother, to die from the physical affects of alcoholism.
My heart broke for this mother, but I also realised she was approaching things the wrong way.
Because of past experiences in her family, this mother was entirely focused on getting her son to stop drinking. In her mind if he didn’t drink anymore, the problem would be fixed.
But drinking was not her sons problem….
A Sinful heart is
On her porch Friday I explained that its important for us to deal with the “root problem” which is his sinful heart (he does not yet know Christ). Once this young mans heart is right with God, then the outer issues such as alcoholism will be changed. But if you focus on the drinking, he could stop that, and still have a sinful heart.
To put it another way, the outer issues such as drinking, profanity, or rebellion are symptoms of the true problem (a wicked heart)
For true change to come we must deal with the problem not the symptoms.
I am eternally grateful for a college professor who used an illustration in class that drove this point home. A teenage girl used to come home from school every day depressed because kids made fun of her. She would lock herself in her room, and eat two bags of Doritos every day. Her father decided this had to stop, and told her “don’t eat Doritos for two hours every day!”
Obviously this is ridiculous because the Doritos weren’t the problem. The problem was this teenagers increasing loneliness and depression. In the same way even if this son did stop drinking, the real problem isn’t dealt with.
As Christians we must do the hard work of helping individuals make sense of their lives with the Word of God. And a big part of this work is understanding its never about the Doritos.